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General FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

My fiancé and I are hoping to honeymoon in Greece this July, but our families are freaking out, seeing everything that is going on in Athens.  What can you tell us and what can we tell them?

Greece, as the birthplace of Democracy, has a history of assembling and speaking freely, and the area around Syntagma Square, where the parliament building is located, has long been a venue for parades, marches and demonstrations.  More recently, as Greece has experienced economic and political turmoil, Syntagma Square and the area around the University of Athens have been the site of protests, most peaceful, but some notable for their size and level of violence.  While strikes and work stoppages can affect the whole of Athens or even the whole of Greece, the violent protests are nearly always confined to the areas above.  While we cannot predict the future, the embassy does not anticipate that these protests will spill out into the traditional tourist sites in Athens.  If you follow the guidance in our Country Specific Information and can be a bit flexible, we believe that you will enjoy a safe, trouble-free time in Athens, before setting off for Santorini, or Mykonos, or Rhodes, or Milos or Andros, or Zakynthos, or Paros or the Peloponnese or…

 I am planning on taking a ferry/cruise from Athens to an island. Will my transportation be affected by recent demonstrations and strikes?

Short answer: It could be. If the subway and buses are on strike any airport transfer becomes more expensive as it requires the use of a taxi. In addition, during demonstrations, the Syntagma and Monastiraki metro stations in the center of Athens are sometimes closed.  Ports and ferries have also been affected by strikes, but to a lesser extent than other transportation.  Air traffic controllers have been on strike twice in the last year, but this does not generally affect international air travel.  For news and updates, check the AttikoMetro website.

Are tourists getting hurt?

The embassy has received no reports of U.S. citizen tourists being injured as a result of a demonstration.  There have been unconfirmed reports of U.S. citizen-demonstrators sustaining minor injuries, but they have not contacted the embassy for assistance.   

Should I get a hotel close to the Embassy?

If you lose your passport, it’s nice to be handy to the Embassy and there are a number of hotels nearby, but there are also dozens and dozens closer to the tourist areas which are not in close proximity to the areas affected by the demonstrations.  If crime is a concern, please click on our reference guide for information on specific areas in Athens which we recommend you avoid.

Are the islands safer then Athens?

Virtually all demonstrations take place in Athens and the large cities of Greece, such as Thessaloniki.  When strikes affect ports and ferry traffic, they affect travel to/from and between the islands. These are usually of shorter duration, and may only involve larger ports.  Building in a day or two of flexibility is always a good idea, as wind and weather can also affect ferry schedules.  

Will recent turmoil affect my flight to or from Athens?

Strikes can affect public transportation to/from the airports.  Air traffic is much less likely to be involved.  For updates and flight-specific information, visit the Athens International Airport website.  Taxis are generally available and you may wish to see if your hotel has a shuttle or car service available, should a strike affect your plans.
 

Will prices in Greece be much higher right now/I am wondering what the impact of the economic crisis might be on services provided, in hotels, restaurants, etc.?

Prices seem to have remained fairly stable.  Sadly, there are businesses that have indeed closed as a result of the economic crisis. However, the city of Athens remains a lively destination.  There are shops and restaurants, tavernas and cafés all waiting to greet visitors with typical Greek filoxenia, or hospitality. For information on traveling to Athens on a budget, visit the City of Athens Visitors’ website’s tips.

Are hotels in the region of Omonia Square dangerous at night?

In general, we do not recommend the Omonia area after dark.  Please read the Safety and Security and Crime sections of our Country Specific information sheet. 

Is any antipathy directed at American citizens specifically?

The Embassy is not aware of any incidents where U.S. Citizens were specifically targeted and Greeks are, in general, very welcoming, helpful and hospitable. Some of the demonstrations in Greece, as elsewhere in the world, have an anti-establishment or anti-globalization theme.  When this occurs, the United States and other large, industrialized nations are often the focus of the demonstration. 

If I happen to get caught in a demonstration, what should I do? 

The best defense is really to stay informed about what demonstrations might be going on, by visiting the Embassy webpage.  However, if you find yourself walking into a demonstration or hear one coming your way (They are loud!), the best defense is just to walk in the opposite direction.  The same is true if you sense tear gas.  Your eyes may burn and it may be hard to breathe.  Walk away from the area or the direction of the gas.  If there are police present, stay well behind them.  You may wish to have some water with you and wear layers, so that you can remove outer clothing.  Remember that on windy days, even yesterday’s tear gas can get blown around and cause irritation. The embassy cannot come and rescue you if you get stuck, or if you are participating in a demonstration.  Even peaceful protests can quickly turn violent.  It is simply best to stay informed and avoid the area.  

How damaged are Plaka and Monastiraki? Are the shops and attraction sites still open?  Is there anything left to see?

While there is some damage still evident following the recent demonstrations, there has been no effect to monuments or ancient structures.  Athens is open for business.  Click the picture to take a look at some recent photos!

What travel documents do I need to travel to Greece?

You need a U.S. passport. We recommend you make a copy of the photo page of your passport to identify you and facilitate replacement in the event your passport is lost or stolen during your travels.

A visa is NOT required for travel in Greece for U.S. citizens staying less than 90 days.

What’s the driving like in Greece?

Please steer yourself to the Traffic Safety and Road Conditions section of our information sheet.

I am an American citizen getting married in Greece, how can I register this with the U.S. Embassy?

One of the documents required to obtain a marriage license and get married in Greece is the affidavit of marriage or non impediment certificate. This document must be signed under oath by the U.S. citizen before a Consular officer here. Notary services cost $50 and are provided at the Consular section by appointment. To make one, click here.

Do you recommend using a Greek travel agency to book a trip once in Greece? 

Using a licensed travel agency can be an easy and helpful way to book trips from one destination in Greece to another. Many travel agents speak English and offer suggestions based on your travel needs.  Contact the Greek National Tourism Organization, responsible for the licensing of Greek Travel agencies, at visitgreece@gnto.gr or visit their website.  

Do I need an international driver’s license to rent a car or a motorbike?

Tourists and temporary residents who stay in Greece for fewer than 185 days, and plan to drive MUST carry a valid U.S. license as well as an international driver's permit (IDP). Failure to have both documents may result in police detention or other problems. While you may be able to rent a car or motor bike without presenting your IDP, if you have an accident, your insurance may not cover you if you do not have an IDP.  The U.S. Department of State has designated two organizations to issue IDPs to those who hold valid U.S. driver's licenses: AAA and the American Automobile Touring Alliance. 

Are there any dress requirements at monasteries?
Yes. At churches and monasteries, women are required to wear appropriate length dresses or skirts with sleeved blouses. Shorts are not always allowed on either men or women. Many monasteries offer visitors skirts and tops to slip over clothing that is not deemed appropriate. It is always a good idea to ask.

Can I drink the water?
Yes, virtually everywhere, but you can also find bottled water everywhere.

Can I take a small rock from the Parthenon home with me as a memento?

Greek customs authorities have strict regulations concerning the export from Greece of antiquities, including rocks from archaeological sites. Penalties range from large fines to prison.  

I am in Greece on a tourist visa but want to stay for more than 90 days. Will I be fined if I overstay this visa?

A U.S. citizen may remain in any Schengen country (or travel among various Schengen countries) as a tourist for up to 90 days in a six month period without a visa.  Anyone remaining in the Schengen zone beyond the 90-day period may be subject to a fine at the time of departure and will be barred from entry into any other Schengen country for 90 days.  In Greece, fines for overstaying the 90-day limit run from €600 to €1,200, depending on the length of time the person has remained in the country illegally.